Cromer tree surgeon rescues stranded dove

A self-styled Dr Dolittle tree surgeon has taken a rescued bird under his wing.

As a keen watercolour artist who often gets up before dawn to paint the sunrise, Andrew Church is no stranger to early mornings.

But, since rescuing a stranded baby bird he has had to get used to a few sleepless nights too.

Mr Church's animal antics first made the pages of the EDP, as a teenager in the 1950s, when he nursed an injured linnet back to health.

Since then he has cared for a string of abandoned or wounded animals, including owls and oiled sea birds, a greenfinch whose broken wing he splinted with a matchstick, a black headed gull he fed on endless tins of sardines, and a baby boa constrictor which, because it refused to eat, he hand-fed on warmed-up frozen mice every week for nearly three years.

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He discovered his latest casualty – a young collared dove – sitting beneath a tree just over a month ago. 'It must have been about 10 days old as it had no feathers,' he explained. 'And it is never a good idea to put a baby bird back into the nest as it can unsettle the others, so I decided to keep it.'

After wrapping the bird in an old work glove to keep it calm, Mr Church took it home where, remembering the advice of famous ornithologist and bird artist RA Richardson, whom he met out birdwatching as a youngster, he fed it from his own mouth.

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'It sounds a bit revolting, but the best way to feed a baby bird is with a mixture of chewed up boiled rice and bird seed,' he said.

Because the dove needs regular feeding throughout the day from 4.30am onwards, it spends its time travelling on work and painting trips sitting in a laundry basket on the front seat of Mr Church's car.

'It has become quite a talking point among my customers, and even inspired one lady to write a poem,' he said.

The baby dove is now beginning to feed itself and Mr Church is hoping that, eventually, it will learn to fly and return to the wild.

'I would like to see it go back to a normal life, but, at the moment, as soon as it sees me it starts flapping its wings for food – I think it thinks I'm mummy or daddy,' he said.

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